"Happy Together" is more than just one of the songs on SunShade 'n' Rain's latest album.
It's also how the three singers sound when they're on stage, how they appear when they're harmonizing in the recording studio, and even how they act when they're bouncing ideas off each other during a photo session or an interview.After seven years of singing and performing as one of Utah's most popular trios, Mel Teeples, Jeff Gregerson and Dan Whitley are just happy being together.
(When SunShade 'n' Rain was first formed back in the mid-'60s, there was another Dan involved - Dan Lindstrom, who eventually moved to Seattle to pursue other interests and was replaced by Dan Whitley.)
And "Happy Together" is also the one song from their "Gonna Have A Good Time" album (Bonwhit Records), that has been singled out . . . as an up and coming single.
With the help of their new national promoter, Mike Borchetta of Nashville, Tenn.,
"Happy Together" is gaining considerable airplay on a number of radio stations across the country. Borchetta first heard the record a few weeks ago when his secretary (and fiancee) played the song over and over and over again. She obviously liked it - and Borchetta is banking that millions of radio listeners will enjoy (and buy) the contemporary reprise of the old Turtles hit, too.
Some stations that have been playing the tune include KXAL in Pittsburg, Texas; WKUS in Sanford, Fla.; WIAI in Danville, Ill.; KZZY in Devil's Lake, N.D.; WLFH in Little Falls, N.Y.; WCNB in Connersville, In., and WSDQ in Dunlap, Tenn.
If national success is finally within reach of SunShade 'n' Rain you could hardly term it "overnight."
Regionally, they've been very popular. By the time Dan Lindstrom left the group, SunShade 'n' Rain had performed thousands of concerts, not only in Utah but up and down the West Coast, throughout the South Pacific, and in some of the country's finest clubs.
They did everything from one-night stands to longer gigs in nightclubs. They've performed at nearly 800 state and county fairs - but, ironically, never at their very own Utah State Fair. (Paging Jackie Nokes. . . .)
One concert date they're looking forward to is the Palm Springs County Fair in February, arranged through one of the group's former California agents who's booking them again. (He also does booking for the Utah State Fair, so maybe next year they'll be there.)
When left in the late '70s, Teeples and Gregerson took some time to reassess their situation. After years of grueling concert tours - all-too-frequently leaving their families behind in Utah - they decided that it was time to take a breather.
"Did we really want to spend 8-10 months a year on the road? Or did we want to spend more time at home watching our families grow?" commented Gregerson.
So Mel and Jeff canceled some already-scheduled performances and got out of the business.
But not for long.
-LET'S STOP HERE and backtrack a bit.
While SunShade 'n' Rain was busy in Utah, the other Dan - Dan Whitley - was just as busy in the California music scene as a composer and musician. He played bass for the Lettermen and, occasionally, joined in on vocals when they needed some four-part harmony (as in "The Theme from `A Summer Place' ").
Then, during the late 1970s, about the same time that SunShade 'n' Rain was undergoing its transition, Whitley was making some changes, too. He decided to bring his wife and young family back home to Utah.
In retrospect, Whitley feels he must have been inspired to make the move, because about six months after they relocated, one of his children, Danny Clarke Whitley, was taken to Primary Children's Medical Center, where he was diagnosed as having terminal brain cancer.
About this same time, Whitley became acquainted with SunShade 'n' Rain. When Teeples couldn't make a 96-performance date at the El Dorado Hotel in Reno, Whitley learned Mel's parts and went along.
"For the first time since the Lettermen, I felt I was in the presence of the finest male vocalists in the country," Whitley said.
A few months later, after Lindstrom had moved to the Northwest and the trio had been temporarily mothballed, Teeples got a call from an organization in St. George wanting to book the trio. It was a job that was just too good to turn down, so Whitley was invited to join the group and re-learn the bass parts.
Following a rehearsal "of about half an hour," they got a standing ovation.
That was seven years ago, and SunShade 'n' Rain have been harmonizing ever since.
Because of his experience in the recording and music industry, Whitley assumed the role of booking and recording agent. He's also lead singer and composes much of the trio's new material.
Although SunShade 'n' Rain had been looking for a "hip" sound for nearly 15 years, it's not necessarily something that can be coached or taught. What it takes is just the right combination of voices.
"The Lettermen had a baritone who sang falsetto - and he lost his voice because of that," said Whitley.
But SunShade 'n' Rain have a more natural sound. Teeples and Whitley are tenors and Gregerson is bass.
The trio's sound has matured over the past five years, and they're now to the point where they feel completely comfortable together. They know each other's capabilities, and they almost instinctively know what the other two are going to do before they do it.
Teeples was born in Idaho Falls but moved to Ogden when he was in the fourth grade and is "a Utah boy through and through." Gregerson was born in Seattle, and Whitley was born in Salt Lake City, moving to L.A. when he got the offer to join the Lettermen.
All of three have full-time occupations that allow them the freedom to perform, especially on weekends, when the opportunity arises. Teeples is manager with a Salt Lake-based electronics firm, Gregerson is a manager with Evans & Sutherland, and Whitley operates his own music studio.
In addition to Mike Borchetta Promotions in Nashville, SunShade 'n' Rain have a local agent, Sherry Klingler of Utah Talent Find.
One major aspect of SunShade 'n' Rain's sound is the group's backup band, a group called the Justus Brothers (as in "just us brothers"). And there are two sets of brothers involved - Dean and Bob Kaelin on keyboard/bass and drums, with Tom and John Hopkins, 24, on guitar and keyboard/trumpet, respectively. John also is technical director for the trio's concerts.
And the trio can't say enough for Glen Neibaur, recording engineer, who operates a Salt Lake company called The World's Best Recording Studio. (The studio may not be as big as some you'll find in L.A. or Nashville or London, but if you want "the best," then Neibaur is your man, according to Whitley.)
He also gives a lot of credit to "a silent Justus Brother" - Stan Seale, an arranger-pianist from Hollywood who now lives in Salt Lake City and who's done much of the background work.
You could almost consider SunShade 'n' Rain to be a contemporary, musical version of the Three Musketeers. They're "one for all and all for one" in battling many of the wrongs in today's music industry. You won't hear any offensive lyrics, sensual rhythms or pro-drug music at their concerts or on their records.
They focus on positive, uplifting - and highly entertaining - music. As concerned fathers themselves, Mel, Jeff and Dan feel they're obligated to promote material that will give impressionable teenagers positive values.
During a concert earlier this summer at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, it was readily apparent that Sunshade 'n' Rain, although they're somewhere in the vicinity of middle-age themselves, have the ability to entertain both young and old generations.
Teenagers in the audience were clapping and stomping in time to the beat. And the grownups were joining in and thoroughly enjoying the show, too.
Although the trio is most closely associated with the LDS Church, their concerts and tapes are non-denominational. The group's church-oriented material is reserved for LDS fireside programs or for special concerts and LDS seminary "morningside" gatherings.
And while their sound is basically the same as it was nearly 20 years ago - tight, clear, concise harmonizing - you'll find that SunShade 'n' Rain is branching off in new directions. The Ricks College concert included such diverse material as a Beach Boys parody, a Bible Belt gospel tune, ballads, light rock and even bluegrass.
For booking and/or recording information on SunShade 'n' Rain, call Bonwhit Records at 561-7377.
-"GONNA HAVE A GOOD TIME" (Bonwhit Records) is SunShade 'n' Rain's latest album.
Recorded in Salt Lake City and released this summer, the nine tracks range from such recent Top 40 hits as "Somewhere Out There" (from "An American Tail"), "The Greatest Love of All" and "Memory" (from the stage production "Cats") to the bluegrass classic "Rocky Top," revivals of "Good Vibrations" and "Happy Together," a pleasant, mainstream version of the country-western tune, "Long Line of Love," and two original pieces, the title song and the poignant, touching "Don't Say Goodbye," written by one of Whitley's music students (James Marsden) after Dan's oldest son, Danny, died of brain cancer last November.
This last song, naturally, is one that has a lot of deep, personal feeling for Whitley. ("Recording it was part of the process of dealing with the grief from Danny's death," he said.)
"Gonna Have A Good Time," is an energetic, upbeat tune the trio worked out during a trip en route to a concert in southern Utah. During the drive, Whitley suggested they come up with a new song to open their concerts - and "Gonna Have A Good Time" certainly sets the tone for what follows. This bright, bouncy piece is the only "warm-up" act that SunShade 'n' Rain needs.
Two of the most beautiful ballads in recent years have been "Somewhere Out There" (which was nominated for an Academy Award) and the haunting "Memory" from "Cats." The renditions by SunShade 'n' Rain on their new tape rank right up there with any others.
A couple of older rock favorites, the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" and the Turtles' "Happy Together" are given that special SunShade 'n' Rain touch, but one of the real surprises is "Rocky Top," an exciting bluegrass number straight from the hills of Tennessee.